Looking for meaning in declining Oscar ratings

If less popular films mean a less popular Oscars show, asked The Toronto Star March 5, what does that mean for the future of one of the biggest cultural events around? “In some ways you can see it in how the broadcasting world has been divided and subdivided, networks trying to make more and more media product and make it cheaper and cheaper,” said Scott Forsyth, professor of film at York University. “It may be a decline, or the same audience may consume a number of different products.” 

Jane Doe case presents challenges, says Young

A BC judge who quashed one of the 27 first-degree-murder charges – the so-called Jane Doe count – against Robert Pickton, ruled that the charge didn’t meet the minimum Criminal Code requirement for spelling out details of the offence. The decision could create problems for the prosecution, reported  Canadian Press in a story that ran in The Globe and Mail March 4. “I don’t think there’s an insurmountable problem,” said Professor Alan Young of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “But when you’re not clear on the identity of your victim, you lose a lot of context and background evidence that may help.” Circumstantial cases are about building inferences upon inferences, Young said. “To me, it’s not the kiss of death that you only have an unnamed, anonymous victim,” he said.  “But it does make things more difficult forensically and strategically for the government because if you don’t know who the victim is, you can’t lead evidence of their whereabouts in and about the time of the homicide.” The story also ran in The Edmonton Journal March 5.

The Windsor Star noted March 6 that York alumnus Peter Ritchie (LLB ‘70), Pickton’s defence lawyer and a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School, is among the best-known lawyers in British Columbia but his current client – accused serial killer Robert Pickton – ensures his celebrity will be nationwide. When asked about Ritchie, Len Doust, another Vancouver lawyer and one of the profession’s most highly regarded jurists, said “He’s just a very, very good lawyer.” The Star also noted Ritchie is reluctant to talk about himself and about his other passion in life – bluegrass music.

Could a Canadian be Donald Trump’s next apprentice?

While he sure doesn’t appear to be a favourite after last week’s season premiere, York alumnus Brent Buckman (BA ’99) is one of 17 remaining contestants on the popular American reality program “The Apprentice”, reported The Globe and Mail March 4. Buckman is in for a tough fight, as his competitors – who include a Harvard MBA, a Mensa brainiac, various successful entrepreneurs and a psychotherapist – are arguably the strongest contingent of applicants the show has seen in its five-season history. There’s a reason why Buckman doesn’t appear intimidated by the reality-TV cameras. His bio also notes that he went through “an enriched theatre program” during high school in Toronto, studying improvisation, mime, mask and clown – all of which undoubtedly will be required if he wins the contest and has to start working for The Donald.

A reviewer for CanWest News Service March 6 wrote: Just our luck. A Canadian finally makes it on to the shortlist of candidates and he turns out to be the sorriest excuse for an Apprentice candidate since Nap Boy in the original, or Bow-Tie Boy in the follow-up, or Banjo Boy from the most recent edition. Buckman, has been established early on as the comic relief, the lovable loser with a mind of mush, who, according to promos for tonight’s outing, ends up annoying his corporate teammates to no end. It wouldn’t be because of his brilliant ideas, like naming the team Killer Instinct, would it?

The Canadian Press reported March 3 that Buckman survived the show’s opening episode without hearing Trump’s signature “You’re fired!'” But he was also unhappy that his ideas for the task at hand – to promote a membership store called Sam’s Club – were rejected, especially the one to install a karaoke machine outside the establishment. While his team player skills seem in doubt, Buckman already has a huge fan club rooting for him

Glendon psychology professor comments on magic dream weavers

Aggressive disbelievers are threatened by magicians, reported The Ottawa Citizen March 4. “They think you’re demonstrating that you’re smarter than they are in some way,” says James Alcock, a psychology professor at York University who doubles as an amateur magician. “If you’re doing a card trick, they’ll come and grab the cards out of your hand. Or they’ll shout, ‘He’s got it up his sleeve.’ They’d rather destroy it than be shown incapable of figuring it out.” Believers, on the other hand, are so flabbergasted by the magician’s art that they can conceive of no rational explanation. According to Alcock, that’s partly because the architecture of our nervous system condemns us to “magical thinking,” which he defines as interpreting two closely occurring events as though one caused the other. “Rationality is always going to be something we impose on this underlying structure of magical thinking,” he says. “We have to learn it. Large sections of the population have never had that teaching.”

Activist judges usually aren’t, says Monahan

The Supreme Court of Canada – the favourite whipping boy of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives – can hardly be described as activist, wrote a columnist in The Vancouver Sun March 4. Separate papers by Sujit Choudhry of the University of Toronto faculty of law and Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, reveal that from 1984 through to 2003, the government won roughly two-thirds of the Charter cases that appeared before the court. In other words, the court only invalidated a law – or granted some other form of relief to rights-seekers – in one-third of cases. Monahan looked at the record of each individual judge on the court, and found that former justice Claire L’Heureux-Dube – whom conservatives routinely derided as a “radical feminist,” and that’s one of the nicer things they had to say about her – would only have granted relief to rights-seekers in 21 per cent of cases, meaning she voted to uphold the law 79 per cent of the time.

York Career Centre wins kudos

Campus employment centres can be a pot of gold at the end of the academic rainbow for many graduates,reported The Edmonton Sun March 4. York University’s award-winning cyberguide www.yorku.ca/careers offers online workshops, passwords to job listing Web sites and many other online tools designed to help its students create a unique career path. Its walk-in employment resource service offers one-on-one career advising and more. “We help students be strategic about choosing a job and how to take a seemingly ordinary job and maximize your ability to get the most out of it,” says Cathy Keates, associate director of York’s Career Centre. “So many students want career-related experience. Sometimes, it’s about thinking outside the box.” That can include volunteering to undertake new tasks, such as writing a press release for an event planner if you’re interested in a public relations career. “On the surface, the job may not be related to [your field]…but sometimes you can mould it to get the experience you want,” Keates says.

Graduate knew career path at early age

For author, illustrator and York alumna Leslie Watts (BA Glendon ’84), her mind was made up pretty soon when it came to what she wanted to do as a career, reported The Daily Press (Timmins) March 4. “My mom said when I was five I wanted to write and illustrate books,” she said. “It’s one of those things I feel I was born wanting to do. Although sometimes I wonder if it’s wise to go into an occupation you chose in kindergarten.” The Stratford, Ont.-based writer is slated to speak at the 18th annual Daily Press Literary Awards set for May 9. Watts has also written for television, including the show “The Eleventh Hour,” and she hopes to speak on that experience, as well as striving to make a living in the field. “Trying to make money as a fiction writer, it’s not a good plan to have,” she said. “It’s nice when it happens, but I think it’s very rare. “

Filmmakers from York get a break on national TV

Small films made by a pair of Algoma natives – and York students – were set to get some big exposure on national television over weekend, reported The Sault Star March 3. “The JR DIGS Show” on Global was to air works by Desbarats native Chris Nash and Sault native Chris Pozzebon. Nash and Pozzebon are film students at York University. “It’s good. I have nothing bad to say,” said Nash of the small-screen showing. “Exposure’s not a bad thing. More people know I’m out there and hopefully more people will like my work.”

On air

  • Patrice Gélinas, professor of business administration in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, spoke on CBC Radio (Charlottetown, PEI) about job creation and unemployment rates on March 3.
  • Ananya Mukherjee Reed, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about China and India as rising world powers on TVO’s “Studio 2” March 3.
  • York Lions men’s basketball coach Bob Bain, and Lions centre Jordan Foebel were interviewed about the Lions’ win over number-one ranked Carleton on Ottawa’s CHRO-TV March 4.
  • Pat Armstrong, professor of sociology and women’s studies in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about private versus public healthcare on Goldhawk Live on CPAC-TV.